What is that Noise?

11 Jan 2024 3:37 PM

What is that popping sound joints make?


When we think of Chiropractic, most think of the cracking or popping noise that comes from the joints during the adjustment. Some people would cringe at the thought of this, and others would get excited and desire for it to be happening to them.


But what really is the noise. Put simply it is just a gas transfer within the joint that occurs on movement, a bit like when you release a bubble of gas when lifting a glass up that was caught beneath a glass when resting on the kitchen bench. It in itself is not bad, and when created in the joints by a trained individual, at the right location, in the right direction, when deemed safe to do so, is also very therapeutic, and can be extremely beneficial to that individual.

Let’s dive a little deeper…

Your joints (and I mean all moveable joints of the body), have a certain amount of movement, sometimes it is restricted and sometimes it is moving too much. And most of the time we can hope that those joints are moving just right. But if it is restricted then it can either lead to 

  • Pain, especially when trying to move it beyond its range
  • Muscle changes, which may mean there is deconditioning or atrophy
  • Bony changes such as arthritis, or demineralisation due to lack of use
  • But also just lack of range of motion and potential instability (too much movement)  in neighbouring joints to compensate.

Too much movement (usually in response to a lack of movement nearby) can lead to…

  • Pain due to irritation and micro sprains occurring during normal daily activities
  • Muscle changes due to increased tone to support these unstable and weak joints as well a potential spasms due to a reactive protective mechanism
  • Bony changes such as arthritis, being your bodies way of minimising movement over time
  • Regular popping or cracking of your joints that some people seem to encourage (more about that later)

You may be able to see a pattern, that really if the joint is moving too much or too little your body will react to protect and overcome these issues. So really joints moving “just right” is the best option, and that is what a chiropractor is trained to do, restore joint function as best we can. Now usually (but not always) we do this through adjustments that may bring about a cracking noise. That is because we find the restriction and work out which way it will be best moved to restore better function. We position the patient's joint and provide a fast, but measured amount of force to be as gentle and as effective as possible. This will take the joint past the para-physiological space which is where the gas will freely move from one spot to another creating that sound. In turn it will stimulate the nervous system and the muscle spindles to “reset” and restore more appropriate movement patterns.


Technically this can occur in most joints, but if it is not needed in that joint, or happens all too often, then it is not healthy. A chiropractor should make recommendations about an appropriate dose of care to retrain your joints to move better, and then a tapered dosage to build strength and stability.


There are sadly many people that will try and crack their spines, and sometimes somewhere between daily and many times a day (that is the all too often concept), and what I say to that is “Short term gain, long term consequences.” What I mean by that is that if you can move your own joints easily, then it is already moving and if you continue to take that joint past the para-physiological space, you will encourage it to move more and more and become weaker and more unstable, you will feel you have to crack it more often, it will get tighter and tighter, and it will wear out faster and more painful. (Refer to the list of consequences of instability above.)


So is the crack dangerous? – No. If done by a trained individual in the right place, right direction and deemed safe to do so after appropriate assessment which also may include X-rays to assess the condition of the spine. Just leave it to the professionals!

Alive Health can help you!



Alison Bennett at Alive Health in Orange has got you covered and if you watch Jackie Chan or James Bond do it, then just know, we don’t have the same results!!! Give us a call on 02 6362 7899 if you have any concerns or just want to stay on top of your health.